This story first appeared on The Mash-Up Americans.

Sign up here for The Mash-Up American newsletter: Get smart and be delighted as you get to know America!


I dated my husband for almost seven years before our wedding. We've now been married for two. He’s Jewish; I’m Hindu.

It wasn’t until five months into our marriage that the divide between our cultural backgrounds and religions become apparent.

It began with brisket.

The evening started benignly enough — we were trying to decide if we were going to host his family for Passover that year, our first as a married couple. In the midst of planning, our conversation escalated when I pointed out I knew more about his culture and religion than he did. It ended in a huff when I was able to explain how to make a perfect brisket, but he couldn’t tell me what sambar, a lentil-based South Indian vegetable dish, was.

The real issue wasn’t about food, obviously.‌

Seth and me. Image via Hitha Herzog, used with permission. ‌

When I first met Seth, I knew how important Jewish culture was to him, even though he wasn’t religious. I made it a point to learn about Judaism.

I studied the diaspora of his relatives from Hungary and Russia to Princeton, New Jersey, via the Lower East Side and the Bronx. I researched Jewish history and visited museums. I learned how to make a perfect potato pancake and read up on what each of the eight Hanukkah blessings meant. I happily called myself a Hind-Jew. Because in my mind, that’s what I was becoming — a balanced, super in-tune mix of my culture and his.

Despite having had a four-day wedding that included separate Hindu and Jewish ceremonies, though, my husband had no idea who he was (culturally) marrying.

Sure, he was schooled on the several ritualistic steps of our Hindu wedding ceremony. He was present for the house-blessing puja we hosted when we bought our first apartment on the Upper West Side.

But he still didn’t understand why I kept vegetarian on Saturdays (a day devoted to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, something I have done since birth) or why it was imperative that we always take our shoes off in the house. His understanding of what it meant to be a Hindu Indian was straight from a Mindy Kaling script, peppered with “tiger mom” quips.

Food was a whole other issue.

Seth wasn’t used to eating spicy food, so instead of having my weekly thali complete with idli, potato masala, and a dosa, a South Indian breakfast array that I had turned into a dinner tradition, I swapped it out for a weekly trip to our favorite Chinese joint. Secretly, I was afraid I was becoming more “Jew” in the delicate Hind-Jew equation I created for myself, and it scared me.

‌Passover. Seth as Moses, and me as I prepare the perfect brisket. Image via Hitha Herzog, used with permission.‌

We were a few weeks out from our wedding when Seth and I started talking about our future kids.

“We are going to raise them Jewish,” he said with finality.

“OK...” I said, giving him the side-eye, slightly bewildered.

Turns out discussing brisket is great for surfacing a hidden identity crisis.

I was right to be nervous. Though he’d always said he didn’t want me to convert to Judaism, once we were engaged and talking about our future kids, he’d had a change of heart.

He wanted our kids to be raised Jewish, and in order for our kids to be Jewish, I had to be as well.

And just like that, another weight had been added to the “Jew” side of the Hind-Jew scale. But I loved this guy. I tucked away my anxiety, and suddenly, five months later, we were married and facing our first Passover.

“How would you like it if I made an executive decision to raise our kids Hindu?” I shouted. “I thought our kids were going to be raised knowing both religions. And now you are saying they can only be one?”

“It’s important to me for the kids to be raised in the Jewish faith.”

Seth took a step back and sat down at our enormous kitchen table, a place I had envisioned our kids studying for Hebrew school and reciting lines from the Mahabharata.

“Where is this coming from? We were just talking about brisket!” He genuinely looked perplexed.

“You said you wanted me to convert so our kids could grow up Jewish!” I shrieked. I was getting upset but for reasons only I could understand. It wasn’t even the conversion part that upset me. I had spent so much time learning about his culture and religion in our relationship that I was 75% there. I was upset because I felt like I was losing myself. I had already changed my name to Herzog when we got married. Now I had to give up a large part of my identity? No way.

Seth paused for a moment before he spoke. “It’s important to me for the kids to be raised in the Jewish faith.”

Our conversation wasn’t going anywhere, so I dropped it for the moment.

We hosted Passover. It was a week before a trip to India to visit my extended family. During the dinner, Seth talked about his excitement and fear swirling around the trip, since it was his first time there.

“I’m sure I’m going to get diarrhea,” he said with a smirk. “But at least I will lose some weight!”

Our guests doubled over in laughter. My heart sank as I passed around the matzoh ball soup, which I had made from scratch. I didn’t want to ruin the fun everyone was having by dismissing such a backward notion of India, but I was heartbroken. The Hind-Jew scale had practically fallen over. I cried myself to sleep that night.

Something happened during our week abroad. The minute we touched down in Hyderabad, all the preconceived ideas Seth had about India vanished. He was enthralled and eager to learn.

I took him to all the ancient sites in town, and he stood and said nothing; instead, he let the sensory overload of noisy auto rickshaws, street anarchy, and the smell of petrol and street food take over. He met my extended family. They embraced him like a son. They overfed him South Indian delicacies of biriyani, a savory chicken and rice dish native to Hyderabad; tamarind and yellow rice; pesarattu, a mung bean pancake; and upma, a savory porridge made from rice flour.

My heart burst when he asked for seconds. It shattered in a billion pieces when he went in for thirds.

‌Seth with Sarah, one of seven Jews left in Cochin, Kerala. Image via Hitha Herzog, used with permission.‌

One night, my family pulled together a “small” Hindu reception of 100 people in the courtyard of our family’s apartment building. They wanted to welcome Seth and celebrate our wedding and give blessings. Seth was so touched by the gesture, he cried.

Later in the week, we ventured to Cochin, in Kerala, where we hung out on a houseboat for three days as the second part of our honeymoon. Seth got to see how diverse the religious landscape of India really is when we visited a Syrian Christian church that had been in town since the 1300s.

“This place is awesome,” he said. Day five into the trip, he still wasn’t sick and continued to take second helpings of the food.

Our last day in Cochin was a significant turning point in our Hind-Jew negotiations. Seth and I visited a section of the city called “Jew Town.” Historically, this was where most of the spice trade happened in the city. It was an ancient section, beautifully preserved with a 500-year-old synagogue at the end of the street. While walking back to our car, we stumbled upon a shop that sold handmade bread coverings for Shabbat. The coverings were made by a 92-year-old Jewish woman named Sarah Cohen, whose family had settled in Cochin nearly 400 years ago. She was one of seven Jews left in Cochin.

Seth and I spoke with her about her family, her faith, and what it meant to be an Indian Jewish woman. She showed us pictures of her family from the 1800s and of herself from 1940. When Seth and I left, she started to cry and said, “Please come visit me again soon, my days are numbered!” Something changed in both of us that day.

On our way back to the States, we talked about Cochin and my family.

Seth, unprompted, said: “I want our kids to be raised Jewish, but it’s important to me for them to know their Hindu roots. And they can ultimately decide what they want to do.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Could our travels have changed his perspective on our future family? He didn’t elaborate, but when we stepped off the flight I knew he was a changed person. I was, too. I no longer felt the pressure to convert, or the weight of my hidden anxiety over the Hind-Jew scale. Even if I do convert, I know that I won’t be losing myself; converting will be a chance to access another faith while still holding on to my traditions.

At least I know that Seth was changed in one dramatic way. Instead of an “Indian” diet, he had to go on a diet when we got back to the U.S. after gaining 10 pounds from eating so much incredible South Indian food — the same food that he now asks me to make alongside the brisket.

‌Our wedding. Image via Hitha Herzog, used with permission.‌

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

Keep Reading Show less

It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

Keep Reading Show less